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12-Step Treatment For Drugs & Alcohol

What is a 12-Step Program?

When you hear “12-step program” chances are you have a specific program in mind, such as the one by Alcoholics Anonymous first published in 1939. The reality is that there are many 12-step programs out there, each with its own adjustments suited to meet the needs of the group it’s for. 

A 12-step program is a collection of philosophies aimed at helping people take action against substance abuse disorders. These programs require a group setting where the 12 steps are discussed and applied within the group. Members must admit to themselves the problem they’re recovering from. The program also requires members to have a sponsor. Sponsors are people who are more experienced with recovery, who guide newcomers.

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The 12 Steps Are For More Than Just Alcoholism

We integrate the 12 steps into our treatment planning because the principles behind the steps are focused on honesty, open-mindedness, willingness, and service to others. These are strong principles that are good for anyone to live by and they have helped millions recover from alcoholism and drug abuse. There are options outside of the 12 steps, but the principles behind the steps are something that can be very helpful.

What are the 12 Steps?

The 12-step process may vary slightly depending on the program you participate in. There’s no set time you’ll spend in each step.


In this step, you must be honest with yourself about your substance abuse disorder. You’ve lost the power of choice in your usage. Here is where you admit that something is wrong with your life and you’re committing to making the change for sobriety.


In step 2, you come to believe in a higher power, something other than yourself. Many programs refer to this as “God” but the program itself allows people to leave this to interpretation. What matters is your faith in your own personal conception of the Divine. It’s the start of spiritual growth.


During step 3, you surrender yourself to your spiritual higher power. You turn your will and life over to the care of the Divine. 

Soul Searching

Once you reach step 4, you’ll take a moral inventory of yourself. If you’ve been successful in the first three steps, this is the part where you take action on surrendering to your higher power. This means taking time to look at our lives to identify the problems and take a closer look at how our behaviors have affected others. It’s about getting a clear picture of everything, which is sometimes difficult for newcomers. The more time you spend in recovery, the clearer the picture becomes.


In the previous step, you took a moral inventory. Documenting all the mistakes you’ve ever made because of your substance abuse is tough work. And it will leave you riddled with guilt and shame. That’s okay because you’re not alone. In this step, you admit to yourself, your higher power, and another person, all of those wrongdoings from your moral inventory. 


By talking through everything that makes you feel guilty and all of your mistakes, you’re practicing integrity.


Step six is about accepting those defects as the past, and being willing to let the Divine remove them. It’s hard to let go of all the guilt and shame, but it’s necessary to move forward.


At this point, you’ve cataloged your past, shared it with someone else, and released yourself from the guilt and shame associated with it. This step is about releasing yourself from that past. It’s about understanding that you play a small role in the overall picture – and never seeing yourself as more important than you are.


Here, you practice willingness to make amends to all the people you’ve harmed. Make a list of everyone you’ve wronged in the journey to get to where you are now. More than the list itself, this is about actually making amends to show that you really care for those on your list. In remaining sober, you’re committed to acting on the principles of love, not just for yourself, but for those who matter to you.


Here is where you start making your amends directly to the people whenever possible. You should only avoid direct amends when making those amends could injure them or others. Making amends to others is about forgiveness and getting a fresh start with them. It’s about taking responsibility for what you’ve done. If you want to remain close to the people you love, you have to ask for forgiveness and understand how your mistakes affected them.


Taking a personal inventory like you do in step 4 isn’t a one and done thing. Many of the staff here at Magnified are in recovery, and continue to take personal inventory as part of active recovery. In this step, you continue to take a personal inventory regularly, and promptly admit whenever you are wrong. This is something you’ll continue to do for the rest of your life.

Making Contact

In step 11, you focus on making contact with your higher power. Whether through prayer, meditation, or another method, it’s about making a conscious effort to improve contact with the Divine. It’s about continuing to move forward in life without losing that connection. It’s about paying attention to the higher power who guides you through life.


In the last step, you focus on being of service to others and paying it forward wherever you can. At this point, you’ve set yourself up for success in recovery, and you have the tools it takes to guide newcomers along their own journey. You’ve lived it yourself, and have a responsibility to help others the same way you were helped when you started. At Magnified, we are of service because we know what it’s like to have been where you are.

The 12 Steps With Other Treatments

The 12 Steps are most often used in conjunction with other treatments, as they alone aren’t always enough to keep patients on the recovery path. You may also have group therapy and one-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy to help you learn coping skills. Other therapies may be worked into your personalized treatment plan, depending on the results of your assessment.

Find Help Through Our 12-Step Program

There are 12-step programs designed to tackle a number of issues, from alcoholism to substance abuse, overeating, and more. When you work with Magnified, you’ll find that we use the 12-steps not just with our patients, but in our own recovery journeys. We practice what we preach, and we’re ready and waiting to help you or a loved one start now. Contact us to speak with one of our admissions counselors.

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The Big Book Of Alcoholics Anonymous – Bill Willson

Medical Advice Disclaimer

Magnified Health Systems aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

Picture of This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

Dr. Bickley graduated from U.C. Irvine with honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key International Honor Society, Cum Laude. He has been featured on national radio and print media. He is also a frequent lecturer at National Conferences. He holds an A.S. degree in Drug & Alcohol Studies, and two B.A. degrees in Criminology & Psychology, and masters and doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. He is a licensed California Drug & Alcohol Counselor Level II, a licensed Clinical Supervisor and is certified in treating Eating Disorders.

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